He Walked the Halls

As the release date for The Grievers draws near, I thought I’d start sharing some of the passages that didn’t make it into the final draft. In some cases, these passages were false starts that didn’t quite go anywhere. In other cases, I eventually decided that they interrupted the flow of the narrative or simply didn’t fit with the bigger story I was trying to tell. In most cases, I’m still pretty happy with the writing itself, and since books (unlike CDs and DVDs) don’t come with outtakes and other bonus materials (yet!), I thought my blog would be the perfect forum in which to share them.

He Walked the Halls

He walked the halls with a bag slung over his shoulder—every day, pacing, shuffling his feet on the scuffed marble floors. The walls at the Academy were a creamy shade of yellow and lined with black and white photos of all the classes that had gone before us—teenage boys who had long since turned to men or even died, grinning as if they had the world by the balls as they watched Billy make his lonely way up and down the halls, skinny and frail and leaning forward to counterbalance the weight of his books.

He was the kind of kid who never went to his locker, never spoke out of turn, never picked a fight, never glanced sideways during a test or a quiz, and never argued with anyone. I wish I could tell you about the first time I met him or what his life was like or what he did when he wasn’t pacing the halls, but all I can say is that he was always just there, a fixture, like the cubist statue of Saint Leonard that stood guard over the school parking lot.

The statue was a gift from the grandfather of an alum named Buddy Dever who was admitted to the Academy the same year as my father. Technically, Buddy should have flunked out by the end of his first semester, but the constant stream of cash flowing from his family was enough to make everyone look the other way whenever he set fire to the chemistry lab or ran naked through the gymnasium because the other guys stole his gym shorts.

To be fair, my dad said, Buddy was a really nice guy, and chances were good that he had nothing to do with the particular fire that gutted the school a year before they graduated. Even so, Buddy’s grandfather felt compelled to commission the statue by way of compensation, and some rumors had it costing in the neighborhood of a hundred thousand dollars. Which was a shame not only because of all the gum the statue tended to accumulate over the course of a week, but also because you would never in a million years guess what it could possibly be.

From the street, the statue was hard to distinguish from an erect penis, and the neighborhood kids used to taunt us by calling the school Saint Penis Prep. Up close, it looked like a skinny pile of rocks balanced precariously atop a fat pile. The skinny pile was Saint Leonard, and the fat pile was his donkey, Maurice.